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Affordable Housing and the Intersection of Sustainability and Affordability

Community Development
Affordable Housing and the Intersection of Sustainability and Affordability

Uncovering the Hidden Gems: Marrying Sustainability and Affordability

When you hear the words “affordable housing,” you might think of drab, cookie-cutter complexes – devoid of character and sustainability. But let me tell you, my friends, that the future of affordable housing is about to blow your mind.

Picture this: a vibrant community where residents not only have access to a roof over their heads, but also to a thriving rooftop garden, solar panels harnessing the sun’s energy, and a rooftop beehive abuzz with activity. Sound like something out of a utopian dreamworld? Well, buckle up, because this is the reality at the Cooper Gardens housing development in the Bronx, New York.

Cooper Gardens is the result of a collaboration between St. Barnabas Hospital and LM Development Partners, and it’s a shining example of how affordable housing can seamlessly integrate sustainability and community well-being.

Transforming a Parking Lot into a Thriving Oasis

Before the magic happened, this site was nothing more than a dreary open parking lot. But the visionaries behind Cooper Gardens saw the potential to create something truly special – a multi-purpose project that would not only provide much-needed affordable housing, but also a wellness center, solar energy, and a rooftop garden.

As Elaine Braithwaite, the Senior Director for New Construction at LM Development Partners, put it, “It’s always really great just to see, you know, going from that to this whole multipurpose project.” And what a transformation it has been!

Sustainability at the Forefront

Sustainability is the name of the game at Cooper Gardens, and the developers have gone above and beyond to make it a reality. From ENERGY STAR appliances and low-VOC paints to the impressive solar panels adorning the rooftops, every aspect of this development has been meticulously designed with the environment in mind.

Dr. Manisha Kulshreshtha, the Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical and Strategy Officer at St. Barnabas Hospital, emphasized the importance of sustainability, saying, “I think making sure that we’re sustainable is such an important part to this building.”

But it’s not just about the eco-friendly features – it’s about fostering a sense of community and well-being. The rooftop garden, for instance, is a true testament to the project’s dedication to healthy living. As Linda Goode Bryant, the Founder and President of Project EATS, explained, “The idea was to have food growing on the roof and have community programs that help to support residents eating healthy, nutritious, plant-based food.”

Affordable Housing with a Heart

What sets Cooper Gardens apart is its commitment to not just providing affordable housing, but to doing so in a way that truly benefits the community. The project includes 95 units of supportive housing, a partnership with the nonprofit organization BronxWorks, which provides on-site case management, financial education, and vocational resources to residents.

As Shanice John, the Program Director at BronxWorks, eloquently stated, “We want to keep all of our households off the street or out of shelter. We want to make sure everyone has a stable home.” And that’s exactly what they’re doing – creating a safe, supportive environment for those in need.

The Power of Partnerships

Of course, a project of this magnitude doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It takes a dedicated team of partners to bring it all together. And that’s exactly what the team at Cooper Gardens has accomplished.

Korbin Heiss, the Managing Director of Community Lending and Investment at Wells Fargo, emphasized the importance of these partnerships, saying, “It’s critical for partnerships like this to happen so that we’re able to develop these kind of large-scale, complex mixed-use projects like at St. Barnabas.”

Wells Fargo has been a crucial partner, providing a $67 million Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and a $72 million Letter of Credit to finance the construction. And the benefits of this collaboration are evident in the final product – a true oasis of sustainability and affordability.

Fostering a Thriving Community

At the heart of Cooper Gardens is a deep commitment to the well-being of the community. The developers didn’t want to gentrify the neighborhood and displace the residents. Instead, they wanted to create a space where the community could thrive and have access to the resources they need.

Resident Maria Perez summed it up perfectly, “When I got pulled to live here, I’d seen how the apartment looks. It looks beautiful, and it’s the perfect place to raise the boys.” And that’s exactly what the team at Cooper Gardens set out to achieve – a place where families can grow, flourish, and call home.

The Ripple Effect of Affordable Housing

But the impact of Cooper Gardens extends far beyond the walls of the development itself. As Korbin Heiss explained, “Studies have shown that living in a stable, affordable home results in stronger outcomes for children, youth, and adults. So while it sounds like a platitude, it’s really an investment in all of us.”

Affordable housing isn’t just about providing a roof over someone’s head – it’s about creating a foundation for a better future. When families have access to stable, sustainable, and affordable housing, they can focus on other crucial aspects of their lives, such as education, healthcare, and community engagement.

The Future of Affordable Housing

The success of Cooper Gardens is a testament to the power of innovative thinking and the intersection of sustainability and affordability. It’s a blueprint for the future of affordable housing, where residents can not only have a place to call home, but also access to the resources and amenities that promote a healthy, thriving lifestyle.

As we continue to grapple with the affordable housing crisis and the looming threat of climate change, projects like Cooper Gardens offer a glimmer of hope. They demonstrate that it’s possible to create sustainable, community-centric affordable housing that can truly improve the lives of those who need it most.

So, the next time you think about affordable housing, I want you to picture a vibrant, sustainable oasis – complete with rooftop gardens, solar panels, and a thriving community. Because that’s the future we’re fighting for, and the future that organizations like HACC Housing are working tirelessly to bring to life.

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